2022 NFL free agency: Jimmy Garoppolo’s fate among seven bold predictions

The new NFL league year is less than a week away, which means the free agent frenzy is about to hit.

The quarterback carousel already started. The Seattle Seahawks traded Russell Wilson while the Indianapolis Colts bid adieu to Carson Wentz. Aaron Rodgers, on the other hand, decided that $ 200 million was enough to keep him in Green Bay.

Meanwhile, the 49ers still haven’t found a team to take Jimmy Garoppolo, and the veteran signal-caller’s recent shoulder surgery could cause the process to drag out longer than initially anticipated. San Francisco also has several players set to hit the free-agent market, including guard Laken Tomlinson and nickel back K’Waun Williams.

With NFL free agency upon us, it’s time for me to dig into the big old prediction bag and take a stab at how things might shake out. (Disclaimer: These are almost always horribly wrong.)

The Patriot Way reaches Sin City

The Raiders restructured the contracts of Kolton Miller and Kenyan Drake on Thursday, freeing up over $ 14 million in salary-cap space to give them around $ 32 million in total.

The Patriots elected not to franchise tag star cornerback JC Jackson and new Raiders brain trust Josh McDaniels and Dave Ziegler both are familiar with Jackson from their time in New England.

With Russell Wilson joining Patrick Mahomes and Justin Herbert in the stacked AFC West, the Raiders need to secure a top corner to make life harder on the elite quarterbacks in their division.

Jackson has great cover skills and a nose for the football, notching 25 interceptions since 2018.

If you want to contend in the AFC West, your secondary needs to hold up, and Jackson can be a foundational piece for Patrick Graham’s unit.

New England Crimson Tide

Mac Jones had a solid rookie season, but the Patriots are in desperate need of a No. 1 wide receiver to place alongside Kendrick Bourne and tight end Hunter Henry.

Enter: Amari Cooper.

The Cowboys reportedly are expected to release the veteran wide receiver before March 20. Cooper, 27, can give the Patriots a receiver who can stretch the defense vertically and be a reliable target for Jones on third down.

New England likely will have competition for Cooper’s services, but the Patriots get Jones the top-level target he needs.

Colts find their QB, but it’s not Jimmy G

After trading Wentz to the Washington Commanders, the Colts reportedly are among the teams thought to be in the mix for Garoppolo.

Given Garoppolo’s track record as a tremendous leader, it’s understandable why Indy would gravitate to the 30-year-old after the one-year ride on the Wentz coaster.

But the Colts don’t want to surrender a third-round pick for Garoppolo and instead sign Marcus Mariota to a two-year, $ 20 million contract believing the former Heisman Trophy winner can be exactly the type of QB they need to return to the postseason .

Mariota would thrive in the Colts’ system that leans on Jonathan Taylor and the play-action passing game.

Steelers also say no to Garoppolo

With the Ben Roethlisberger era finally put out to pasture, the Steelers seemed like a likely destination for Garoppolo.

But it’s starting to sound like Malik Willis is a realistic option for Pittsburgh in Round 1 of the NFL draft. Willis has an incredibly high ceiling but could benefit from some time to sit and develop.

With a plan in motion to draft Willis, the Steelers sign Jameis Winston to a one-year contract with plans to turn things over to Willis in 2023.

Trubisky’s starting job never materializes

Mitchell Trubisky was the hot quarterback name at the NFL Scouting Combine, but that doesn’t last.

Teams eventually remember what starter Trubisky looked like and think better of giving him his chance at redemption.

Trubisky follows Brain Daboll to New York, signing with the Giants to compete with Daniel Jones for the starting spot.

Get your popcorn ready?

Mike McDaniel does some poaching

Mike McDaniel wants to hit the ground running in Miami, so he brings in some former 49ers he trusts to do things the right way.

First, the Dolphins give Laken Tomlinson a big payday to leave San Francisco for South Beach. Tomlinson is durable, reliable, and knows McDaniel’s run concepts.

RELATED: Colts present ideal trade partner for Jimmy G

Then, the Dolphins dial up the 49ers and offer a Day 3 draft pick for Garoppolo, whose experience in the scheme gives McDaniel a signal-caller he knows he can trust.

49ers lose some key free agents but fill holes properly

Re-signing Tomlinson should be near the top of the 49ers’ priority list this offseason, but I’ve got him heading to South Beach. The 49ers also fail to retain DJ Jones and K’Waun Williams, but they make a few splash (ish) signings to fill the void.

With a need at cornerback, the 49ers sign Stephon Gilmore, who looked like his old self with the Carolina Panthers last season. Gilmore, 31, would give the 49ers an upgrade in the secondary and create a nice pairing with Emmanuel Moseley.

The 49ers fill Tomlinson’s spot with free-agent guard Alex Cappa. Cappa, 27, was a solid three-year starter for the Bucs and should come at a much cheaper price than Tomlinson.

Jones’ departure leaves the 49ers with a need on the interior of their defensive line, and they attract a veteran who is in ring-chasing mode in 36-year-old Calais Campbell. Even at age 36, Campbell remains one of the best interior linemen in the NFL. He earned an 80.8 grade from Pro Football Focus last season and trailed only Aaron Donald in positively graded run-play rate.

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